Dear Friends and Readers,
I bore easily and I now understand why. Boredom requires a heightened state of arousal and an inability to engage. Arousal in psychological terms is the state of being physiologically alert, awake and sensitive and is controlled by a part of the brain called the reticular activating system. The reticular formation is a portion of the brain which is located in the central core of the brain stem. Its functions can be classified into 4 categories: motor control, sensory control, visceral control and control of consciousness. The other component of boredom is the inability to engage which really means the ability to focus. Critical to understanding boredom is the element of control associated with boredom. In other words we feel that we are unable to remove ourselves from the thing or environment that is boring us. To me the most dangerous aspect of boredom besides what we do do to counter it is that we blame our environment for our boredom, rather than understand that it is our brain dysfunction.
The key to understanding boredom is to understand the reason that we cannot or do not engage is because we believe that the activity we are engaged in will not benefit us. So, in other words when we become bored in a relationships we have internally and perhaps unknowingly made a decision that the other person in the relationship is not beneficial to us. But wait, you say at one time this person appeared to be beneficial or attractive to us so what happened? One, our lives have become more enriched. In others words as we experience more in life it is harder to impress. With this insight it becomes easier to understand why we get bored- but we don’t have to. Focusing on that individual as someone who is beneficial and supporting them in enriching their life experiences will aide tremendously.
Unfortunately, some of us are more likely than others to suffer boredom or the effects of an un-engaged mind. Boredom is closely connected with people who have chronic attention problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder- which is an inability to focus. James Danckert, PhD. a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the the University of Waterloo found that people highly prone to boredom perform poorly on tasks that require sustained attention are more likely to show increased symptoms of ADHD and depression. In fact chronic boredom can look a lot like depression, but they are not the same emotional experience, Danckert says. Boredom and depression are highly co-related, but distinct states. More research needs to be done, but doctors speculate that boredom may be a risk factor for depression.
When people are bored, they’re disengaged from satisfying activities and are more likely to become internally focused in a negative, ruminative cycle, says Danckert. Also, people with a high sensitivity for reward are also at risk of boredom. These are the sensation seekers- like sky divers or any high risk activity that includes some degree of danger. At the other end of the spectrum are people who are overly sensitive to pain and punishment. This group is more likely to be people with high anxiety who are more likely to withdraw from the world out self-protection. Being bored can be problematic in other ways because boredom is correlated to drug abuse, gambling and over eating.
It gets worse, There is even evidence that people who reported experiencing a great deal of boredom were more likely to die young than those who were more more engaged in the world. The researchers theorize that boredom was probably a proxy for other risks factors such as drug or alcohol use. And we know that people who are bored tend to make more mistakes and this becomes serious if you are a pilot or surgeon or air traffic controller. On the other hand, boredom can cause people to create new ways of thinking and behaving.
So here’s the bottom line: if you don’t have the inner resources to deal with boredom constructively, you might do something destructive. Those who have the patience to stay with that feeling and the imagination and confidence to try out new ideas are likely to make something creative out of boredom.
This insight has given me a new lease on life. Change or be creative or die of boredom- literally.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes